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Pet Rules and Regulations Go Fetch

For anyone who has ever taken in a stray, won a goldfish at a county fair, or indulged a pleading child with an impossibly cute kitten, the disarming charm a pet holds over its owner is self-evident. A pet becomes more than just a presence about the house, it is a loyal companion, and for many people, an extended member of the family. But in communal living situations, like in condos and HOAs, the issue of pet rules and restrictions is vital. One person’s joy must not become another’s burden. So lay out the ground rules before the situation becomes hairy—or furry, as the case may be.

“You have to protect the rights of the entire association, of everyone’s quality of life,” says Michael Cervelli, owner and manager of Cervelli Management in North Bergen. “Just as there are rules and laws for people, there are rules for our pets, as well. Each association creates its own regulations, but they’re all trying to accomplish the same things: quality of life and asset enhancement.”

While there is no standardized list of pet rules for New Jersey condos and HOAs, they often dictate the number, size, and type of pets individuals may keep. These restrictions can run the gamut from prohibiting snakes as pets to disallowing animals from roaming freely throughout a building. In certain communities, where units are on large tracts of land, for example, the size and weight limits might be much more lax than in tightly packed high rises.

According to David J. Byrne, an attorney with the Lawrenceville office of Stark & Stark, the most basic restrictions—usually regarding weight limits and the number of pets a resident may have—stem from concerns surrounding the issue of noise. A 100-pound Doberman, after all, could make quite a ruckus jumping around a studio apartment or townhouse unit just overhead. It is also common for restrictions against breeding animals. But violations of these types are rarely where true problems arise. “The practical issue is not enforcing the clear rules—with those there are objective ways to identify issues,” says Byrne.

To a degree, the responsibility of maintaining a peaceful coexistence between pets and people falls on the shoulders of individual owners. “With communal living you have to be conscious of the people around you,” says Cervelli. “If the owner of the pet takes care of his responsibilities, you have very few complaints. It’s not the poor pet’s fault if it lives with someone who is crazy or not a tidy person. What do you expect the pet to do?”

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4 Comments

  • Pets are permitted without restriction in our building in the legally filed condo documents. Our non-renting owners would like to prohibit pets for renters. They write rules and restrictions, but none are by vote. They have made no amendments to the legally filed condo documents. A board of directors has no authority to govern occupancy of units - within the four walls. Their only authority is to set rules governing occupancy of the common areas. We are disputing their rules. What is required of a board in order to restrict pets entirely? Are an existing owner's rights protected?
  • Were you ever able to get an opinion regarding this situation. My association in Texas wants to do the same thing, restrict size and number of pets by Board rules when there is no prohibition in the condo declaration.
  • My neighbor under me (2 story unit bldgs. with 10 units each) has had a shitzui for 9 long years and they bark nonstop and very loudly for their small size, much like a chihua. Our units only have windows in sunporches (XLG patio door walls on 2 sides) and I have a small window next to TV in LR and a huge slider window next to PC desk in 2nd BR facing porches. Rules state dogs must not bark constantly and must be leashed outdoors. The female resident under me has enforced all the rules/regulations on me with outdoor furniture put in an obscure area where no grass grew and away from her and other units....which he had removed....and also had a Weber portable grill and chairs removed from discreet hidden foundation area. Meanwhile her dog has barked loudly in her open porch (we face SE sun) from May into Oct. for the last 9 yrs., oftentimes up to 4 hrs. nites till 11:00/11:30 PM when she is out or away or working P/T. Cannot tell you how horrible it has been and the association seems to let her do whatever she wants, while all the other area residents leash their dogs walking them outdoors (per rules) and contain the barking. She does nothing and her dog runs loose w/o a leash and has twice run for my ankle barking loudly outdoors both after dark while shoveling snow in late March and carrying groceries from car to condo down 150 ft. long sidewalk, often by surprise. I am severely mobility disabled and ue a cane and live alone, age 75. She is 81 but very lean and limber as she walks miles daily, but without her dog in recent year it was barking so very loudly at other people esp. after dark...you could hear a block distant. I kept calling association office complaining and nothing was ever done. I finally was told I had to sign a muni complaint vs. her which landed us both in muni court for one whole year of repeated demand presence and repeated postponements. She lied and had area neighbors sign a notarized statement her dog DID NOT BARK. I had called our gatehouse one late nite, and they told me they could hear it in background on their phone.. What do you do with a neighbor like this who has absolutely no regard for person above her? The dog barks everytime anyone comes down our sidewalk days, nites, and especially after dark as we live adjacent to woodlands and wetland with all kinds of small animals here and a deer herd, fox, raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, rodents. Her patio doors are open all day/evenings/nites....& she keeps a dog cushion by one for sleeping out there. The only window/screens/light/fresh air source we have for our 3 room living area which includes LR, DR, and Kitchen, is the porch patio doors and my tiny window in LR next to my only TV. These units are dark and have NO cross ventilation as they are piggy back units. What i a poor condo owner to do as they units are cheapest real estate in all of NJ in a parklike country club setting. My fees are now up to almost $500 mo. (but my unit is worth about $100K today and same most of my last 19 yrs. here and what I paid for it in 1996. The place is poorly built. Attracts many widows and divorcees....The costlier ranches/villas on lake and golf coure go for 3-4X more, but still dirt cheap next to real estate in area (median 3-4 BR home goes for $650K) and UP. We have load of multi million $ homes so this village (950 units) is very cheap real estate even buying a ranch or villa for $350K-$400K. Their fees are little more than ours and now up to an unheard of $475-$500 mo. We took an over 50% increase in 2015 in fees and still our long sidewalk lites to the roadside parking are out yet a 3rd time since Feb. and are usually out for several weeks before they bring in an electrician. What is a resident to do? My permanent foot disability is a result of their poor attention to problems and drainage here as we have had flooding problems on our main shared Xlong sidewalk/common lawns for all 19 yrs. I have been here, despite their 2 v
  • I am asking my Condominium Association to allow me to have a Companion Dog to help me with my Depression and Anxiety issues due to medical health issues. I have received a lengthy email letter from their Attorney's office stating that they are requiring me to go through extensive medical and mental health examinations and want to see all of my medical records/history. Also they want me to be examined by a therapist...my doctor has already sent them a letter about my health issues icw my depression and anxiety. How far can they really go with all these request. I had to do this for my application for Social Security Disability, which is understandable...but this is a Condominium. How far can they go on requesting my medical records??